Spinal cord injury impairs movement, sensation, autonomic functions. Preserving the integrity of the spinal cord is key to conserving these function. Although the spinal cord is not believed to normally contain active neural stem cells, it has recently been discovered that a subpopulation of cells lining the central canal, called ependymal cells, re-expresses neural stem cell properties following spinal cord injury. These reactive ependymal cells proliferate extensively, migrate into the injury site, and differentiate into neural cells that help seal the wound. In this project, we have characterized the cellular environment ("niche") of these ependymal cells, studied their behaviour in models of spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis, and are presently investigating the factors controlling their responses to spinal damage. By developing ways to modulate the responses of these cells, we aim to improve the ability of the injured spinal cord to protect and repair itself.